Lawyer Jokes Will Never Die

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on February 13, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

David Lash thinks that lawyer jokes are over. "For the past two weeks, across the country, lawyer jokes have fallen silent," Lash, the managing counsel for pro bono and public interest services at O'Melveny & Myers, writes in Above the Law. Faced with attorneys' quick response to the president's travel ban, during which lawyers flocked to airports to offer legal services to detainees, the public's appreciation has overwhelmed its previous derision of the profession.

Or so the argument goes. But while attorneys may be getting some good PR these days, no matter how many good works attorneys perform, lawyer jokes will never die.

Lawyers as Heroes, for Now


Lash paints an inspiring -- and not inaccurate -- picture of attorneys who rushed to the aid of those in need. The music swells, the credits roll, and suddenly everyone is googling law schools:

That first weekend was an exercise in chaos and the Constitution. While protests erupted at airports, lawyers worked feverishly to help vulnerable clients in ways that only lawyers can do. Knowing that their purpose was justice, and that the processes depended on fairness, hundreds of lawyers worked impossible hours throughout the weekend. They knew that amid the cacophony they had to make the system work. No detained immigrant would be left alone, for our democracy does not work when the vulnerable are unaided and alone.

This is a bit self-congratulatory, but it's not wrong. The days following Trump's executive order saw an unprecedented level of appreciation for attorneys, including crowds chanting "thank you, lawyers!" -- the only time that phrase has ever been said en masse in the history of mankind.

Still, You're Never Escaping Lawyer Jokes

But that's not going to be enough to totally change the public perception of lawyers, let alone get rid of lawyer jokes. There are, after all, many shining examples of attorneys' goodwill, compassion, dedication to justice.

Then, there's the day-to-day reality. The company lawyer, whose favorite word is "no." Your ex-wife's divorce lawyer. The law professor who goes ballistic over his Chinese takeout. This is the reality that ensures a future for lawyer jokes.

Sure, lawyers aren't all highly paid psychopaths. There are few professions that so consistently and institutionally offer their labor for free to the most needy. There are few professions that regularly stand up for the Constitution and American ideals. There are few professions so largely despised despite all that.

That's fine with us. It is, after all, better to be feared than loved.

And besides, lawyer jokes are funny.

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